The ABC of Digital Food Marketing

Digital Food Marketing to make your restaurant business grow

If you have never heard of Digital Food Marketing, or if you are not sure what it is, you’re in the right place! In general terms, digital food marketing is the whole combination of online activities aimed at persuading customers and potential customers to choose and enter your restaurant. You just need to take a quite professional picture of a well presented gourmet dish, accompanied by an evocative text and a string of pertinent hashtags, including the evergreen #foodporn. Easy peasy, isn’t it?

Ok, we’re just kidding! If you are here, you know very well that a nice picture on Instagram is not enough, and that there isn’t any hashtag that will make ends meet! And no, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, that you will manage to beat your competitors on your own, without the support of a digital marketer specialized in the food and beverage industry, unless your name is Carlo Cracco or Iginio Massari, and if you’re reading these lines, I doubt it!

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Digital Food Marketing in Italy: restaurateurs and consumers

Talking about Digital Food Marketing in Italy is not easy. Despite the Italian cultural identity being built around the food and conviviality cult, and although Italians are considered the masters of food and catering, a substantial percentage of restaurateurs declare they don’t intend to invest in their digital and technological evolution, because they’re afraid of devaluing their art and work, or simply because they are not aware of the potential economic returns of this investment.

If on the one hand we have restaurateurs who are sceptical about the opportunities of digital food marketing,on the other hand we are witnessing the evolution of consumers, defined by some as “foodies”. We are in the Review Economy age, a type of economy in which a brand’s value is the one that consumers perceive. He/she feels to be the main actor, whose opinions and positive or negative reviews play a huge role, and don’t spare anything or anyone!

The foodie is the typical western consumer who doesn’t eat only to satisfy one of his primary needs, but has a particular interest in food, which, in fact must not only satiate the appetite, but must also indulge the palate, satiate the eyes, while telling a story, transmitting new feelings and emotions. Hence, it has to let consumers enjoy an exclusive multi-sensory experience, capable of striking an emotional chord.

The current consumer has completely changed his habits and needs; according to Audiweb 2017 data the Italian average user spends online 2 hours and 22 minutes online daily, of which 2 hours and 7 minutes are on a mobile. It is not a case that the user demands speed, freedom of choice, the possibility to evaluate, read the menu on the website, book the table with a click or order through a food delivery app.

Yet, in most cases there is no system to book online, the business website is missing, or if it exists it is not updated and is not optimized for mobile. In many other cases, the restaurateur doesn’t claim their Google My Business page, or if they do it doesn’t contain crucial information, such as the address, activity description and opening hours. What is the result? The business loses a prospect! This is just the tip of the iceberg, and it shows how a careful digital food marketing strategy can make the difference for a restaurant business.

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What is a Digital Food Marketing strategy?

Coming back to basics, what do we mean by a digital food marketing strategy? It is an integrated system of activities, positioning and marketing techniques aimed at:

  •      Gaining customer loyalty;
  •      Reaching and gaining prospects;
  •      Creating or reinforcing brand reputation;
  •      Boosting organic word-of-mouth.

Clearly, online activities need to be coordinated with offline ones. Therefore, if you’re thinking that a good Digital Food Marketing strategy is enough to change the destiny of your restaurant business, well you’re going in the wrong direction.

The digital sphere is intended as support, it’s crucial, but it’s still support; this means that if the customer, attracted by the image you managed to transmit online, should have an unpleasant experience in your restaurant, he/she will talk badly about it to friends and relatives, and probably he/she will also complain about it online. This is the way in which the reality your business should confirm or, even better exceed what you’ve promised online: the offer, the menu, the quality of the meals and service, the details and design of the space and the offline experience are a prerequisite, not an extra value.

Digital food marketing and market positioning

Knowing all this, we can start talking about the actual strategy. Before deciding which tools and social platforms you should use, which contents you should produce and which activities you should develop, you need to understand:

  •      What you want to offer;
  •      How you want to distinguish yourself from competitors;
  •      How you want to position your business in the market.

You can’t offer everything that all your competitors offer, or meet the tastes and needs of each customer. Success lies in knowing how to distinguish yourself, in occupying a well-defined niche market, or creating it by offering a product that is not easily forgotten. The universal goal of a Digital Food Marketing strategy should be to be able to communicate a product that represents an unequaled set of values, and to do this, as indicated above, you must offer a product that matches your promises.

Geolocation and Digital Food Marketing: Local Search

After defining your brand identity and your goals, and before thinking about the social platforms and the editorial calendar, make sure you claim the Google My Business listing of your restaurant business! This is an essential step for successful digital food marketing, because according to statistics, around 68% of the population trusts online reviews, and 91% believe that they are important during the decision-making phase.

In fact, in recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in local search. Local Search is very important for restaurateurs as it allows to intercept potential customers located near the business. So, claiming the My Business listing will mean writing the description, defining the correct categories, entering the exact address and opening hours, and including good quality photographs. In addition, only those who claim the My Business listing can manage and respond to reviews left on Google, which can be positive or negative.

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Reviews are your friend

Reviews, another sore point for restaurateurs! It is often one of the reasons why many of them decide to neglect the digital sphere, but this is a mistake! In fact, as already mentioned, being online allows you to manage and respond to reviews, gather support and criticism, understand the needs of your customers and capture the perceptions that customers have about your business. This is information that if used well can add value to your business! The reviews may be scary, but they can help your business grow and improve brand reputation, so take advantage of them! The same goes for Tripadvisor, because many users start their own research from here!

Digital food marketing, website and social platforms you should use

I know you’ve been asking this from the beginning: what are the social platforms that a restaurant business should absolutely use? Apart from Tripadvisor, Facebook and Instagram represent the ideal habitat for Digital Food Marketing, especially Instagram, because among other things it also allows geolocating photos. Regardless of the attractiveness of the visual component, these platforms allow you to talk face to face with the client, to tell a story, to convey the values of the brand, to open a conversation and build a community, to boost organic word of mouth.

Is it over here? Obviously not! It is important to point out that a good presence on social platforms, however precious it is, is not enough; having a responsive web site, SEO optimised, informative, that has a reservation form, a map and a menu, and that transmits the identity of the brand in line with the other digital tools, is the basis of the online presence. The website is the only digital corporate asset of your ownership and control, and is an integral and fundamental part of the brand image you want to convey.

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Your agency specialized in Digital Food Marketing

Too much information to digest? Get help from professionals specialized in Digital Food Marketing! We will help you to analyze your business in its current state, to highlight its strengths and weaknesses.

We will guide you in the construction of your brand identity and in the development of an integrated marketing and communication strategy that is coherent in every phase and touchpoint with the client, which will lead you to satisfactorily reach your goals.

If this article has given you ideas to improve your business and you want to know more about our services, contact us by filling out the form below.

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